Kenya: Meta appeals court decision to try company over worker mistreatment

By Jaysim Hanspal

Posted on Tuesday, 28 February 2023 18:12
Kenyan lawyer Mercy Mutemi (C) speaks to the media after filing a lawsuit against Meta accusing Facebook's parent company of fanning violence and hate speech in Africa at Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi on December 14, 2022. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Social media giant Meta has appealed against allegations of worker mistreatment by moderators in Kenya, represented by whistleblower Daniel Motaung.

On Tuesday 21 February, the social media giant filed an official appeal against his case.

In February 2022, TIME released an investigation into Facebook moderating outsourcer Sama, detailing their treatment of workers, which led to several cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sama, which describes itself as an “ethical AI” organisation, paid workers, including Daniel Motaung, just $2.50 an hour as they watched a constant stream of violent and explicit videos as part of the company’s safeguarding process for its users.

On 5 February, the company filed an appeal to dismiss the judge’s argument that Meta was not a proper party in Daniel’s case in Kenya, as the company says it doesn’t have a physical presence in the country.

Its outsourcing company Sama is also headquartered in the US but has operations in Nairobi, and last month announced that it would no longer be providing moderating services for Meta, citing the “current economic climate” as the reason for their decision.

Daniel and Goliath

At the most recent hearing about Motaung’s decision to ‘serve Meta out of the jurisdiction’, the company sought to delay the judge hearing Motaung’s application to serve – despite the company initially calling for the hearing.

During the hearing, Mercy Mutemi, counsel for Motaung, accused Meta of deliberately attempting to slow proceedings. “This is the second time the respondents have done this. There’s an application coming up for hearing and they hijack the hearing by filing a last-minute application, deeming it extremely urgent,” she said.

The director of Foxglove Legal, the not-for-profit representing Daniel, said: “It isn’t fair for Facebook to profit from Kenyan citizens while saying it should not be subject to Kenyan justice. This is one of the world’s richest companies and they can perfectly well defend themselves in a Kenyan court.”

“There is no need for this company to hide from the Kenyan justice system. When Meta causes harm to people in Kenya, it should answer for it in Kenya, pure and simple.”

Motaung’s appeal is on behalf of a wider group of Sama employees, all of who have experienced PTSD after working at the company.

During the hearing, the senior counsel for Meta responded: “We have stated from the beginning we are not the employer. And if we were the employer, I would have no doubt at all that there would be opportunities to sit and discuss this matter.

Presiding Judge Jacob Gakeri responded: “I want to serve those two respondents so that they come on board and I [can] establish that they are my employers. If I fail to do so, then they can apply for costs, because I would have sued them for absolutely no reason.”

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